Grant kick starts new £8m nature reserve project

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The Board of New Anglia LEP has approved a grant of £250,000 from its Growing Places Fund to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust – the final piece of funding to help the Trust realise its vision of a new nature reserve in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

The £8m project will link three sites in a 1,000 acre landscape for wildlife at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft, creating a southern gateway to the Broads National Park and representing the biggest habitat restoration and wetland creation in the Park for a decade. It is the Trust’s ambition for the site to become a National Nature Reserve in the next five years – reflecting not only the ecological importance of the habitat, but also its economic, social and cultural potential. A new, state-of-the art visitor centre will help to make the reserve one of the most accessible nature experiences in East Anglia.

The reserve is forecast to bring in 120,000 visitors per year on completion, with annual offsite expenditure reaching £1,371,500 and supporting up to 43.5 FTE jobs in the area. As such the project is also aligned with the Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk, its ambitions for job creation and for achieving economic growth in the Visitor Economy, one of the Strategy’s key sectors.

Doug Field, chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The world-class natural and cultural offer of Norfolk and Suffolk contributes to a £5.1bn visitor economy in the East. This ambitious project has the potential to make that offer even greater and push that number even higher.

“The creation of a new reserve and visitor centre at Carlton Marshes will benefit wildlife, people living in and visiting our two counties and our economy. The LEP Board is proud to play its part in creating that benefit.”

Julian Roughton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said the award from New Anglia LEP was evidence that the new reserve had benefits beyond wildlife.

“The restoration of this special corner of East Anglia will bring rich rewards not just for Suffolk’s wildlife but also for the local economy. The 1,000 acres of reedbed, fen and wetland scrapes will support some of East Anglia’s iconic species such as fen raft spider, marsh harrier, bittern and crane. The wildlife and special landscape of the Broads attracts people from across the UK and our new visitor centre for Carlton Marshes, with its views and walkways across the marshes, will enable more people, from near and far, to explore this area and discover the wonders of the natural world.

New Anglia LEP’s support is crucial in enabling us to create this flagship nature reserve and secures Norfolk and Suffolk’s status as a leading destination for green tourism.”

Pete Waters, Executive Director of Visit East Anglia, said: ‘This will greatly enhance our region’s natural capital, a key reason why many people visit. Importantly, this is an asset that will be utilised twelve months of the year, helping us achieve our long-term objective of developing a year-round visitor economy that will help grow employment and value in tourism.”

Peter Aldous, Member of Parliament for Waveney, said: “This is excellent news and will bring significant benefits to the Lowestoft area in a wide variety of ways. Being on Lowestoft’s doorstep this is a unique project that will create a further gateway to the Broads National Park and a special thanks is due to all those who have worked so hard to turn a dream in to a reality.”

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